One oblong clay box, measuring 65 centimeters by 25 centimeters by 30 centimeters, had an engraving reading “Yeshua Bar Yohosef” (Jesus son of Joseph) and another box in the area was inscribed as “Mary,” but they were not necessarily the burial repositories of Christianity’s holy family, reported the Associated Press, among other sources.

Motti Neiger, the Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson, dismissed the public allegations that the boxes excavated from a building site near Jerusalem had once contained the bones of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Neiger considered the claim as “a nice news story for Easter.”

The boxes had been discovered by a reporter from BBC1, Douglas Hogg, and his Heart of the Matter television program associates. The Sunday Times of London had published a report, which lured many correspondents to the basement warehouse of the Israel Antiquities Authority in order to view the coffins.

The box of “Yeshua Bar Yohosef” had been taken out of an East Jerusalem plot containing nine caskets during 1980, but its inscription had been hardly legible, so the Authority had not been sure what it had. The bones that had been within the caskets were buried fifteen years ago, after being put in the care of rabbis.

An unrelated other ossuary discovered elsewhere, that dated from the same period, had a label of Jesus son of Joseph. In addition, a quarter of the women in that civilization were named Mary during the first century A.D. Zvi Greenhut, an Israel Museum archeologist, said there was insufficient evidence “to show this is the family” as he lifted the lid of the Israel Antiquities Authority casket of Jesus before the media.

Many famous names from the Gospels have shown up in recent excavations, but, as in the above cases, were popular appellations at the time. The usually presumed final places for the Biblical Joseph, Mary and Jesus are respectively Galilee (Northern Israel), Jerusalem, and Heaven.

NEVER TOO LATE

Dr. Pahlvon Duran, who speaks with perhaps a trace of a Scottish accent, testified at a mid-July 1995 hearing at Arizona’s Coconino County Superior Court before Judge Michael Flournoy.

Judge Flournoy spoke to the Arizona Republic newspaper of how it was his job to assist people in the settling of “their differences” and said that Duran’s appearance “was interesting.”

What was fascinating about Duran’s appearance was that he claimed to have been a 15th-century Britisher. Forty-seven-year-old Trina Kamp, the head of the Church of the Immortal Consciousness, channeled the fellow in a court séance.

The séance did not keep active a two-year-old slander lawsuit, however.

Kamp had been angered by lurid rumors spread by opponents about her church.

(Nasty rumors have been falsely levelled against many non-mainstream religions, one should note.)

The unusual court testimony was allowed because the judge believed that the church and its opponents both needed to express their concerns.

SHROUD OF TURIN CONTROVERSY CONTINUES

The March 25, 1995 Los Angeles Times reported that the Turin Shroud Center, a Colorado nonprofit organization, contends that the case for the Shroud of Turin being the burial cloth of Jesus has not been closed. The Center was created some three years ago by John Jackson, formerly an Air Force Weapons Laboratory scientist. Jackson has assisted the coordination of Dr. Dmitri Koutsentsov’s studies of the relic at Moscow’s Sedov Biopolymer Laboratories. Koutsentsov contends that the famed 1988 carbon dating of the shroud as being 700 years old was wrong, indicating that fire damage–which bound airborne carbon to the fiber–was not taken into account. There was, he theorizes, much new carbon involved which made the date seem younger. The Russian scientist dates the shroud as being, at minimum, 1800 years old. Jackson’s wife, Rebecca S. Jackson, said that if the shroud were a forgery, then the medieval Christian forger would have been well versed on the subtleties of Jewish culture–a most unlikely prospect.

IN SPOCK WE TRUST

According to Michael Jindra of the University of Wisconsin, Star Trek has become a religion. In his article “Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon” in the scholarly journal Sociology of Religion, he makes some telling points. Like other religions, Star Trek has:
* a “canon” of writings.
* a hierarchical organization.
* fanatical followers.
* a sense of persecution (since some believe Trekkers are weird).
* created tremendous wealth for a chosen few.

Jeffrey Mills, a teacher of Trek at several colleges, was quoted in the March 27, 1994 Washington Post, saying, “What the Bible does in 66 books, Star Trek does in 79 episodes.” What other media immortals may generate similar fervor? Consider this: the Baker Street Irregulars claim that Sherlock Holmes really existed. This is the same Holmes who “died” at Reichenbach Falls and “rose again” to a kind of eternal life, just like Spock died and came back to life. Praise St. Martha (Hudson) and pass the collection plate.

BANISHING THE DEVIL YEARLY

Clovelly in England was again devil-free. To achieve this enviable state, the village children, as per their annual wont, performed the ancient Lanshard ceremony on March 1, 1994. They dragged hundreds of tied-together tin cans along cobbled High Street. The resultant noise frightened the Devil into the sea‹at least until Lent’s end.

VIRGIN MARY STATUETTE WEEPS TEARS WITH THE SMELL OF BLOOD

According to an O Globo report of August 26, 1993 (translated by Humberto Teles), Roman Catholics from various places in Alagoas, Brazil, went on pilgrimages to Maceio in order to see the weeping statuette of the Virgin Mary of Mystical Rose. This statuette was in the Araujo Bivar Street house of Carlos Antonio dos Santos, 26, an employee of the state’s Company of Human Resources Development. One visiting worshipper described how the object wept tears which smelled like blood.

Carlos recalled the initial August 22, 1993 incident, witnessed by worshippers and relatives: “First, the Virgin started weeping in only one eye. Later it wept abundantly until the whole statuette was moist. The liquid had a smell of blood.” He spoke of how it started weeping just as his prayers to the Virgin asked for “the sinners’ repentance.” He believes that the miracle was a demonstration for those who lacked faith.

The Catholic Church itself did not take objection, but Maceio’s Archbishop Dom Edvaldo do Amaral considered it all very strange. He said he would request that the statuette be lent for study and scientific research–as it was too early to come to any conclusions. The Catholics who crowded Carlos’s place on August 25, 1993, were convinced that the miracle was real. Most thought the weeping to be a proof of sanctity, and concern about the miserable situation in which Brazilian people live.

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WITCH AD TO USE?

Aetna’s public service spot for a measles vaccine managed to offend a witches’ rights group, since it depicted a witch as being green skinned, warty and wicked. The Wall Street Journal of May 19, 1994 told how it is not easy to write ad copy these days, because there are so many interest groups. In a speech scheduled for May 19, 1994, Lawrence R. Riciardi, RJR Nabisco’s president, said, “Utter a word. Write a piece of ad copy. There’s at least one group of people you will offend.”

Even Porky Pig is under fire from the National Stuttering Project in San Francisco. Ira Zimmerman, the advocacy chairman, said: “For 60 years, stuttering has been used for comic relief in Porky Pig cartoons. Perhaps that is the reason children continue to be teased for stuttering.”

Aetna is sticking with its “witch ad.” Kevin Malloy, the company’s director of advertising, said, “This is a very strong advertisement. And we’re using the universally known images of myths and fables.”

BRING BACK THAT OLD TIME RELIGION

“Priestesses should be burned at the stake because they are assuming powers they have no right to,” said Rev. Anthony Kennedy, the vicar of an Anglican parish. The vicar, who spoke to a local newspaper in his northern England locale, added: “In the medieval world, that was called sorcery…. In medieval times I would burn the bloody [expletive deleted].” On March 12, 1994, 32 women were ordained in the Church of England, the first to undergo the rite. But, as in Kennedy’s case, some male priests disapproved.

BUDDHA CRIES

A 110 square-foot site at the Tonghae temple had been rained on for 19 consecutive days, claimed a South Korean Buddhist monk. On October 12, 1992, after a statue of Buddha was moved to a new site, the rain commenced on the old one, according to a report from the Joong-ang Daily News. The monks, from the temple north of Seoul, believe this is because Buddha is unhappy. The report quoted a monk as saying, “We think that Buddha is crying over the move.”

While localized showers are scientifically explainable, it is highly coincidental in this case.

AT CHURCH, A WITCH FACES THE MUSIC

Mr. Shaun Pickering-Merrett, 26, had been organist for almost six years at St. Michael’s Church in Tuffley, Glos, England. Then he confessed to his vicar, Rev. Tony Minchin, that he was a witch. Other churchmen pressured him to resign–and also demanded an exorcism of the place. However, some parishioners gave the witch £75 as a departure present, reported the October 16, 1992 Daily Telegraph.

JESUS IN TOMATO SAUCE, WITH NOODLES

In May 1991, a billboard on Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain, Georgia, depicting Pizza Hut spaghetti on a fork–and superimposed with the words “spaghetti junction”–was seen by motorists to have an additional motif. This was the face of Jesus Christ, with deepset eyes, a beard and a crown of thorns. Even in the blurry reproduction, printed in the May 22 Columbus Dispatch,the pattern of light and shadow in the poster’s artwork is evocative of Jesus. But a Pizza Hut Inc. spokesman disclaimed any intent to have put subliminal messages into their ad, stating, “It’s total coincidence.”

NO SEX CHANGE FOR JESUS

A paper has been published in Britain that endeavors to prove that Jesus Christ was always male, before and after the crucifixion and resurrection. The paper was put out by the organization Cost of Conscience, opponents of the women’s lobby. According to the October 16, 1992 Times, it was the latest volley in a continuing battle over female ordination.

GOD’S VENGEANCE

“No sooner has the Church of England made its decision on women priests, than we have a fire at the home of its Supreme Governor,” said Canon Terence Grigg, Rector of Cottingham, North Humberside, while addressing parishioners. This was in reference to the Synod vote for the ordination of women as somehow related to the Windsor Castle fire. Concluded Grigg, as quoted in the November 24, 1992 Daily Telegraph, “The coincidence seems amazing.”

NOPE TO POPE

As the Pope watched, six women danced with fervor, their faces perspiring, as befitted the voodoo celebration. The February 6, 1993

A voodoo leader present was equally diplomatic, yet criticized those officials of the church who attacked the voodoo religion.

As a chorus sang, and drums were beaten, the pope sat facing the robed voodoo worshipers, who were adorned in colorful velvet brimless hats. Apparently there were no converts that day–on either side.

FROM AN INFALLIBLE SOURCE

The Pope states that guardian angels exist. “These spiritual beings are sent to us by divine providence to help us reach holiness in life,” he preached on the day in early October, 1991, in which the feast of the holy guardian angels was celebrated.

ARE ALMOST HALF THE ALABAMANS GOING TO HELL?

Not all Christians in Alabama approve of the Southern Baptist Convention’s breakdown–county by county–of who they say is destined for Heaven and who is slated for Hell. The controversy broke on September 5, 1993, when the Birmingham News published a front-page story ennumerating the 1.86 million alleged “unsaved.”

Other Christians, even including some Baptists, felt the Convention had gone over the line by doing go. Jack Denver, a “practicing Christian” of Homewood, said, “It is the pinnacle of presumptiousness to construct a formula for quantifying the unsaved.”

Martin King, speaking for the Baptist’s Home Mission Board in Atlanta, said, “We don’t know who’s lost and who’s saved. All we know is that as we understand the doctrine of salvation, a lot of people are lost.” He said he understood why people would be upset about hearing that they were not going to heaven.

While some people in other similar Christian creeds were accounted saved, the published index applied the Baptist view that Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, non-churchgoers, and many others were not among them, reported the September 19 Washington Post.

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Some critics wondered why the Baptists were attempting to play God rather than preach the Gospel.

THE PARTING OF THE RED SEA–AND HOW IT MAY HAVE HAPPENED

The Red Sea could actually have parted, allowing Moses and the Israelites to cross it on dry land, according to Nathan Paldor and Doron Nof. The former is a meteorologist at the Univeristy of Rhode Island and the latter a Florida State University oceonographer. Paldor, who is on sabbatical from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, got interested in the situation because of his familiarity with the biblical story, and because of its status as an “interesting, unsolved problem in physical oceanography.” Using mathematics, it was discovered that, because of the geographical configuration of the gulf, its parting was possible. “It’s like blowing across the top of a cup of coffee,” said Nof. “The coffee blows from one end of the cup to the other.” A higher wind was necessary in the theorized section of the Red Sea, the Gulf Sea extention. A steady wind of some 40 to 45 mph blowing northeasterly for 10 hours was calculated to be enough to push the gulf’s water back a mile from its northern shore, and lowering its water level ten feet or so. As to the biblical description of water on both sides of the crossing Israelites, an exposed ridge could have accounted for that, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of March 14, 1992.

IS JESUS REALLY KING TUT–AND IS MOSES THE FATHER-IN-LAW OF JESUS?

Ahmed Osman, 58-year-old teacher of Arabic and author of The House of the Messiah has concluded that there was no historical Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament–and that the real-life model for Jesus as well as Joshua the military leader was the Pharoah Tutankhamen. According to the May 30, 1992 The Washington Post, Osman said, “There is not a shred of historical evidence that Jesus lived at the time he is supposed to have done, and I believe the writers of the Gospels adapted a historical figure into their own time.” Needless to say, the theory is controversial. “It sounds a trifle farfetched to me,” said James Crampsey, lecturer in bible studies at London University. “Could Jesus have been Confucius, for example?”

Others had more respectful reactions. “His theory is a very imaginative way of proceeding to deal with what are very serious questions about the historicity of Jesus…,” said Robert Eisenman, a religious studies professor at California State University, Long Beach, who had yet to read the book, and who also commented, “Within the framework of his own ethnic background, Osman sees similarities, and he may be dimly perceiving a distant relationship.”

Osman’s new book was his third in half a decade contending that Christianity originated in ancient Egypt, where there were Hebrew settlements. The first tome suggested that Joseph was an Egyptian nobleman, whose mummy rests in the Cairo Museum. His second claimed that Akhenaten, the father-in-law of Tutankhamen, was the historical Moses.

Akhenaten had proclaimed one god in the place of the many Egyptian deities. Osman described how “Tutankhamen allowed the old deities back, but he held them to be saints and angels in the kingdom of the Lord. That was rejected by the Israelite priests in Sinai. When Tutankhamen went there to try to bring them back to the fold, I believe they killed him at the place where St. Catherine’s monastery stands today at the foot of Mount Sinai.” According to Osman, who studied law in Cairo and has been in Britain since 1965, increasing his knowledge of Egyptian language and history and Hebrew, Tut’s mummy reveals “he met a violent death, probably by hanging.” He says that Tutankhamen introduced the belief in resurrection.

He also contends that those among the Israelites who kept the faith in Tutankhamen did so in secret, until John the Baptist spread the word of the return of a redeemer. This made the Messianic movement public, and eventually the Gospel took disciples’ claims of witnessing a living Jesus literally, according to Osman.

Kenneth Kitchen, Liverpool University’s professor of Egyptology, was among the more skeptical of Osman’s contention: “It is absolute nonsense and there is nothing more to add.”

PLAGUE PREPS FOR POPE

The park’s gophers may have died of bubonic plague–and thus would not have bothered a planned August 1993 visit by the Pope to Denver, Colorado. To some it looked like divine intervention. Local Catholics had prepared the Cherry Creek State Park for the half-million worshipers expected to show up for the Pope’s celebration of the High Mass.

Many animals live in the park, but run from people. The gophers were expected to remain behind, and be endangered by trampling humans. But hardly any of the little animals were seen during Fall 1992, supposedly due to an outbreak of disease. Antoinette Delaura, a park worker, explained, “Plague is endemic in these animals. Once it hits a colony, the fleas thrive until all the animals have gone. The prairie dog issue is dead.”

Other explanations were offered for the disappearance, recounted the December 27, 1992 Sunday Sun. Some animal rights activists worried that the creatures might have been poisoned.

GOD WILL AVENGE–YET THE COURTS PUNISH

Seven Moslem leaders–known as marabouts–blamed a drought in Niger on women wearing mini-skirts and other “provocative attire.” During July 1992, this set off fundamentalist Moslems in Zinder to attack prostitutes, to lay waste to their homes, and to try to burn down the offices of a women’s association. According toReuters, on November 10, 1992, a Zinder court fined the marabouts the equivalent of $300 each, and sentenced them to four-month suspended sentences. The leaders were also ordered to pay a total of 10 million cfa ($37,000) to those harmed during the rampages, and to the damaged bars and restaurants.

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